Jaw and Facial Pain: Let’s Explore Bruxism and TMJ
- Posted on: Feb 15 2018
To have chronic or frequent pain in the jaw, face, head, and neck can be extremely frustrating. Because medical and dental science still has a ways to go in understanding chronic pain, the frustration of this condition may be exacerbated by a lack of accuracy in treatment. Here, we want to discuss how jaw structure and behavioral habits may play a role in the face and head pain, and what may be done to improve comfort.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Both bruxism and TMJ affect the jaw. TMJ is the term used to describe a group of disorders that occur in the temporomandibular joints. In addition to occurring in the same general area of the face, bruxism and TMJ also sometimes share symptoms. Their unique nuances are:
- Bruxism is a habit. This habit includes grinding and clenching motions made either during waking hours or while you sleep. Sleep bruxism is quite common, and can also be somewhat tricky because it can be difficult to recognize the habit as it occurs. Dentists have to observe signs of bruxism such as tooth wear or fractures. This habit is often related to stress and anxiety, which is “worked out” while we sleep.
- TMJ disorder is a condition. The underlying cause of TMJ disorder, or the dysfunctional structure or motion of the joints that operate the lower jaw, or mandible, could be related to bruxism. However, other potential causes have also been explored.
Accuracy in Diagnosis and Treatment is Important to Long-Term Gains
The discrepancies between bruxism and TMJ are so minor that it may be difficult to immediately understand what is happening in the mouth and why. As dental professionals, we do our best to recognize the subtle signs of each condition so we may administer the most appropriate treatment.
The protocol for treating each of these oral problems may be similar if TMJ is not severe. Oral appliances, or mouthguards, are the standard approach. However, the type of mouthguard that is used in each situation may vary. Because bruxism is a habit that inflicts stress on teeth and the jaw, the purpose of a mouthguard is to buffer the force of clenching and biting. A TMJ mouthguard, on the other hand, may also need to address the actual position of the jaw during sleep. This mouthguard may need to be more rigid than the one used to manage bruxism.
Dr. David Frey has extensive experience in the treatment of bruxism and TMJ. He has developed The Zone Mouthguard for athletes, and he uses a multi-phase, multi-dimensional approach to successfully treat TMJ and its unpleasant symptoms.
Posted in: TMJ